New European Ryder Cup Captain, Padraig Harrington along with the President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins were among the first to congratulate Shane Lowry who ended a more than three-year victory drought to brilliantly capture the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Lowry led from start-to-finish to secure a fourth European Tour victory in birdieing the final hole in a closing round of 71 in windy conditions and win by a stroke at 18-under par from South African Richard Sterne (69).
Lowry’s victory, his first since the 2015 WGC – Bridgestone Invitational, sees the 31-year old jump from 75th on the World Rankings and into possibly 40th with the very likely assurance of returning to Augusta National in April.
Harrington wasted little time tweeting his pleasure for Lowry saying: “Brilliant by Shane, a win in the toughest possible way pillar to post. Back where ne needs to be.”
It is Harrington’s very first individual player ‘congratulatory’ tweet since being handed the 2020 European Team captaincy reins.
And Irish President, Michael D. Higgins was full of praise for Lowry too, despite a glaring geographical error in his tweet: “My congratulations to Shane Lowry on winning the Abu Dhabi Championship in Dubai – a great feat of sportsmanship of which not only everyone in the Midlands but those all over Ireland will be very proud.”
Victorious 2014 European Team captain, Paul McGinley also took to Twitter to congratulate Lowry: “Great start to the year @EuropeanTour and of course Shane who held terrific footage of putts when needed, 2nd shot to 18 was just pure class – Up Offaly”.
Lowry went into the final day leading by three but found himself four shots behind Sterne who went out in 31, only to open the door for Lowry with bogeys at 14 and 16.
Lowry played his outward nine in one-over thanks to just two birdies but also three bogeys and then dropped another shot at 11 before remarkably birding the trickly par-3 12th hole for a fourth day running.
He then birdied 13 and when Sterne bogeyed the par-4 16th the duo moments later found themselves heading down the last tied for the lead on 17-under and only for Sterne to play a poor second shot and then for Lowry to two-putt for birdie.
Lowry had returned to Abu Dhabi for a first occasion in five years after the bitter disappointment last August in losing his PGA Tour card and then after spending close to a fortnight working on his game in nearby Dubai he began 2019 in stunning manner with an equal course record 62.
“It’s been probably three-and-a-half years since my last win so to come out at the start of the year, I knew I had been playing all right in the last couple of weeks in my preseason that I was doing,” he said.
“But I didn’t really envisage this to be honest a 62 on Wednesday and in the first round and kick on from there and just play good golf for the rest of the week.
“I’m just over the moon to have won again, and you don’t know, like, I think you look at Westy and Danny Willett at the back end of last season and you see what they did and they came back. You don’t know when you’re going to win again. It’s so hard to win out here.”
“I’m just so grateful that I’ve won this and I’m so happy, and I’m going to really enjoy it because you just don’t know when it’s going to happen again”.
In also becoming the first Irishman to lift the gleaming falcon trophy, Lowry set a new Tour record thanks to 11 ‘2s’ on his four-round scorecard and the win takes also Lowry to the top of the Race to Dubai standings.
The win also buries any lingering demons after Lowry had led going into the final round of the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont.
“I slept okay last night, but it was a little bit nervy this morning, breakfast and lunch didn’t go down as well as it has been the last few days,” added Lowry.
“But the one thing I got from Oakmont is I laid down and I didn’t show any fight or bottle there and I did that today. I felt after the 11th hole, I was getting myself in the same situation that I got myself in Oakmont and I genuinely thought that.”
“I also had a quick word with myself and told myself that, you know, just kick on now and just see what I can do for the next six or seven holes.”
In closing, it’s also not lost on us that Rory McIlroy has been runner-up in Abu Dhabi on no fewer than five occasions and in the year he chooses not to contest the tournament another Irishman in Lowry should step-up to accept victory.